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Nader Was Right: Liberals Are Going Nowhere With Obama

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Posted on Aug 10, 2009
Ralph Nader
AP / Carolyn Kaster

Ralph Nader waits for his turn to speak at a news conference during the run-up to the 2008 campaign.

By Chris Hedges

The American empire has not altered under Barack Obama. It kills as brutally and indiscriminately in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan as it did under George W. Bush. It steals from the U.S. treasury to enrich the corporate elite as rapaciously. It will not give us universal health care, abolish the Bush secrecy laws, end torture or “extraordinary rendition,” restore habeas corpus or halt the warrantless wiretapping and monitoring of citizens. It will not push through significant environmental reform, regulate Wall Street or end our relationship with private contractors that provide mercenary armies to fight our imperial wars and produce useless and costly weapons systems.

The sad reality is that all the well-meaning groups and individuals who challenge our permanent war economy and the doctrine of pre-emptive war, who care about sustainable energy, fight for civil liberties and want corporate malfeasance to end, were once again suckered by the Democratic Party. They were had. It is not a new story. The Democrats have been doing this to us since Bill Clinton. It is the same old merry-go-round, only with Obama branding. And if we have not learned by now that the system is broken, that as citizens we do not matter to our political elite, that we live in a corporate state where our welfare and our interests are irrelevant, we are in serious trouble. Our last hope is to step outside of the two-party system and build movements that defy the Democrats and the Republicans. If we fail to do this, we will continue to undergo a corporate coup d’etat in slow motion that will end in feudalism.

We owe Ralph Nader, Cynthia McKinney and the Green Party an apology. They were right. If a few million of us had had the temerity to stand behind our ideals rather than our illusions and the empty slogans peddled by the Obama campaign, we would have a platform. We forgot that social reform never comes from accommodating the power structure but from frightening it. The Liberty Party, which fought slavery, the suffragists who battled for women’s rights, the labor movement, and the civil rights movement knew that the question was not how do we get good people to rule—those attracted to power tend to be venal mediocrities—but how do we limit the damage the powerful do to us. These mass movements were the engines for social reform, the correctives to our democracy and the true protectors of the rights of citizens. We have surrendered this power. It is vital to reclaim it. Where is the foreclosure movement? Where is the robust universal health care or anti-war movement? Where is the militant movement for sustainable energy?

“Something is broken,” Nader said when I reached him at his family home in Connecticut. “We are not at the Bangladesh level in terms of passivity, but we are getting there. No one sees anything changing. There is no new political party to give people a choice. The progressive forces have no hammer. When they abandoned our campaign, they told the Democrats we have nowhere to go and will take whatever you give us. The Democrats are under no heat in the electoral arena from the left.

“There comes a point when the public imbibes the ultimatum of the plutocracy,” Nader said when asked about public apathy. “They have bought into the belief that if it protests, it will be brutalized by the police. If they have Muslim names, they will be subjected to Patriot Act treatment. This has scared the hell out of the underclass. They will be called terrorists.


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“This is the third television generation,” Nader said. “They have grown up watching screens. They have not gone to rallies. Those are history now. They hear their parents and grandparents talk about marches and rallies. They have little toys and gizmos that they hold in their hands. They have no idea of any public protest or activity. It is a tapestry of passivity.

“They have been broken,” Nader said of the working class. “How many times have their employers threatened them with going abroad? How many times have they threatened the workers with outsourcing? The polls on job insecurity are record-high by those who have employment. And the liberal intelligentsia have failed them. They [the intellectuals] have bought into carping and making lecture fees as the senior fellow at the institute of so-and-so. Look at the top 50 intelligentsia—not one of them supported our campaign, not one of them has urged for street action and marches.”

Our task is to build movements that can act as a counterweight to the corporate rape of America. We must opt out of the mainstream. We must articulate and stand behind a viable and uncompromising socialism, one that is firmly and unequivocally on the side of working men and women. We must give up the self-delusion that we can influence the power elite from the inside. We must become as militant as those who are seeking our enslavement. If we remain passive as we undergo the largest transference of wealth upward in American history, our open society will die. The working class is being plunged into desperation that will soon rival the misery endured by the working class in China and India. And the Democratic Party, including Obama, is a willing accomplice.

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By Inherit The Wind, August 10, 2009 at 4:56 am Link to this comment

The very title and first line of this article is an insult.  For TWO YEARS prior to Obama’s election, the Dims held both Houses.  And what did they do?  Cave in to nearly every demand of George Bush!

They could have stopped the elevation of Alito and, more importantly, John Roberts, and, even more importantly, several appeals court judges but they were afraid of Dick Cheney throwing out Senate rules and demanding an up or down vote bypassing cloture.

Now that Dims have DOMINANT control of both Houses, AND a Democratic President, they are STILL laboring in terror of Republicans and “Blue Dog” Dims.  It’s like they learned NOTHING from the loss of both Houses resoundingly in 1994.  You actually have to GET STUFF DONE!

More importantly you have to get stuff done THAT PEOPLE ELECTED YOU TO GET DONE!

Nobody with any sense believes you’ll get it all done, or that it will be the “perfect” bill, but dammit, at least the GOP knew how to muster the troops and keep them in line to GET STUFF DONE (albeit incredibly stupid, fascist, shitty stuff).

I’m not thrilled with Obama’s performance so far. I would VERY much liked to have seen him
1) issue executive orders reversing Bush’s EOs
2) Propose repealing the Patriot Act, the MCA, and the revised FISA, since the first two are fascist and the last was FINE under the 1978 law.
3) Stop signing statements
4) Uncover and fire the Bush political appointees who “moled” into the Civil Service where they remain a cancer.
5) Go after the banks, bankers and WS folks who knowingly gamed the system.
6) Propose legislation to seriously re-regulate the banking and investment industries.
7) Allow investigations of the crimes of the last 8 years to proceed.

All this COULD have been done in his short tenure.

OTOH, Obama has
1) Eased off tensions in many trouble spots, particularly Iran and Korea.  Despite the rhetoric, I think both regimes there are not only breathing a sigh of relief, they are actually open to diplomacy.
2) Relieved our friends and allies that a far more thoughtful and less “punch ‘em in the eye” leadership is in charge.
3) Put stim $$ to SOME good.  Rather rapidly we have moved through this economic crisis and, finally, the most important trailing indicator, unemployment, is moving in the right direction. (I’m hoping this week will end my OWN unemployment situation—those who wish me well, and those who wish me gone from TD should BOTH cross their fingers—I’ll be very, very busy and won’t post much).
4) Brought GOP racism out of the closet so it’s the COP (Caucasian-Only Party) not the GOP.

The inaction and failures fall most heavily on the Dims, particularly in the Senate where there are now 60 Dim and independent votes to over-ride cloture.

But, all the Nader dreamers, as usual, think their guy is Jesus personified….NOT!

He’s still an egotistical maniac.

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By ardee, August 10, 2009 at 4:55 am Link to this comment

teadrinker, August 10 at 7:19 am

You do not note how long you have been a member. Once you have a history you will see a faster response time. Of course, posting relevence helps, and this is not the place for such as you have posted.

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By thebeerdoctor, August 10, 2009 at 4:54 am Link to this comment

Please excuse the bad link posted below, but the piece can be found at the Wikipedia entry on Rosa Clemente.

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By Shift, August 10, 2009 at 4:48 am Link to this comment

There is a peaceful path to positive change.  Live simply and sustainably.  You know the drill. 

Once the bail out bubble bursts, about twenty five trillion dollars, we will be in a very deep depression. Food, water, medicine, and energy will be in short supply. 

Some of us have already been changed in the crucible while others are just now approaching it.  We must all pass through it and emerge a changed people. 

Here is the real issue.  When the depression takes hold, the pols will force us into greater wars to end political criticism.  Will you support war or will you support peaceful change?  That is the real question at hand.

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By thebeerdoctor, August 10, 2009 at 4:45 am Link to this comment

re: Paul_Ga

You are kidding? Rosa Clemente has simply found her niche in that cottage industry known as race relations. Some might say she is “keeping it real”, but real to what? Her so-called hip-hop community?
This is ridiculous.

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By Steve E, August 10, 2009 at 4:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Until the cancer of overpopulation which is the root of all problems is addressed, their is no future, plain and simple. Capitalism is based on a market. Thats why a society based on capitalism will eventually fail. Corporate powers want a bigger market all the time. That means more people. But not all people can pay their way and corporate interests want to weed these non producers out, they are a burden. The old company store works this way. You labour for the corporation then you give your earnings back to the same. The Corporate Cabal will win out in the end because our own self interests prevent us from organizing.

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By teadrinker, August 10, 2009 at 4:19 am Link to this comment

As a member, I’ve yet to see my comment (immediately) posted on a topic. I wonder what the trouble could be?

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By teadrinker, August 10, 2009 at 4:10 am Link to this comment

My message is simple. We live in a defacto military dictatorship via the NSA, CIA, etc. that carefully manipulate our perceptions of reality. Create the perception of a free America, in reality, an anesthesized, passive and broken-spirited America. Nader says cut more fat out of the military; they are bleeding our country. If I was a politician that really moved against the military, bad things would start happening with my career, and’lobbyists’ from the various branches of the military, Intel community would feed my political aspirations, and projects and show me the ghost of my political future if I really try to fight them. They have your name and number, and we live in a state of fear. Example: Imagine how many demolition experts wondered about how the buildings went down in 911. If any of those large companies made any public statements questioning the facts, bad things would start happening to those individuals, companies and contracts would suddenly go south. Get the point?

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By, August 10, 2009 at 4:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If you would like to help pressure Congress to pass single payer health care please join our voting bloc at:

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By M Currey, August 10, 2009 at 3:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Nadar must know that government does not change on a dime he has not been in office long enough to change government.

As far as the thugs that take over the town meetings soon people will see through what they are doing and I hope that the representatives of government hold fast because the thugs think with thug minds and try to put everyone in their mind set and it will not work.  Might work in the short end but not in the long run.

Those against new health care allready have theirs but want others to go without.

The health care system based on the compnies giving benefits no longer exists.  There are no unions and most Americans make less now than before.

Credit was the answer the corporations tell the people but how long can a country last if no one makes anything.

The ones at the top said give houses which is fine but you have to have a job to afford to own a house, to pay the mortgage, change the mortgage rates and people lose, lose their jobs and they lose, the only ones who gain are the banks and they are the ones who helped cause the problem but they are the first ones bailed out and what do they do just give themseles bonuses with taxpayers money.

There are more homeless in the streets than ever before and instead of helping the homeless the businesses want to punish them like they cannot sit on sidewalks they have to be in the shadows so people can think that there are no problems.

Things will really happen when social security ends and then there are the seniors living on the streets.  Kind of like in India!

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By ardee, August 10, 2009 at 3:50 am Link to this comment

“We owe Ralph Nader,  Cynthia McKinney and the Green Party an apology. They were right.”

I once believed that the refusal by many progressives to see the Democratic Party for what it is, complicit as is the GOP in the creeping fascism that overtakes our nation, came from a sense of loyalty that Americans have in their institutions. I now believe that it may be a genuine lassitude and selfishness sponsored by our artificial lifestyle paid for on the backs of much of the world.

Those like Nader, who speak truth to politics and see through the myth of our Democracy, are far too few to accomplish much. How to spark the majority of Americans to rise up from their couches, turn off their TV’s and take to the streets to salvage that which our Founders created remains a mystery.

I would second oldhip, August 10 at 4:40 am in that we deserve what is coming. I recall, shortly after 9/11, in a heated discussion on Democratic Underground, one wise old fellow named Pocho, in response to the question,“why were we attacked?”; simply responded,“because we had it coming”. He was ejected from that forum as were a number of progressives who increasingly saw the Democrats as part of the problem instead of the solution.

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By Paul_GA, August 10, 2009 at 3:30 am Link to this comment

Ms. Clemente would’ve been a darn sight better than either Mrs. Palin, or Biden, for that matter, Beerdoctor. Take it from a disillusioned former Repub—to paraphrase Cactus Jack Garner, FDR’s first vice-president, neither of the two major parties (which are really ONE party cleverly disguised as two) is worth a bucket of warm spit ...

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By thebeerdoctor, August 10, 2009 at 2:35 am Link to this comment

When Hedges states that we owe Cynthia Mckinney and the Green Party and apology, I must laugh. Ms. McKinney’s vice presidential running mate Rosa Clemente was as qualified for the job as the Governor of Alaska.

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By prole, August 10, 2009 at 2:27 am Link to this comment

“The president refuses to acknowledge the obvious—we can no longer afford our empire.” More importantly, he and most other Americans across the narrow political spectrum refuse to acknowledge the even more obvious - our empire can no longer afford us. And it never really could, all along. So if there is ever any change that’s going to come to Amerika, it’s going to be forced upon it by outside actors. “‘Obama could raise a call to come home, America, from the military budget abroad,’ Nader suggested. ‘He could create a new constituency that does not exist because’”....because it doesn’t exist! “Public values” are not “represented by workers, consumers, taxpayers and communities” despite the sterling ideals of a high-minded prophet like the admirable Mr. Nader. If everyone was like Nader it would be a far better world, but they’re not. Obama’s venal hypocrisy is not much different than that of his decadent constituency. The progressive dreamers go on deluding themselves that the American public is still basically good but that the elites keep misleading and failing them. But in reality the whole rotten society is of the same corroded character from top to bottom. Obama is only the latest rebarbative expression of the duplicitous American character. Obamania “acts as an anesthetic. It prevents us from facing” our own iniquity. And it was, more significantly, designed to do the same to foreign populations but they won’t be so easily deceived. So the battle will go on, the conditions essentially unchanged. As the always incisive Nader reminds, “I know only one thing for sure, the whole liberal-progressive constituency is going nowhere.” So that leaves it up to the heroic resistance movements around the world. Their fate - and ours - is in their hands.

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By Ouroborus, August 10, 2009 at 2:13 am Link to this comment

By oldhip, August 10 at 4:40 am #

Yes, unfortunately it is of our making.


“No one can predict the future,” Nader added hopefully. “No one knows the variables. No one predicted the move on tobacco. No one predicted gay rights. No one predicted the Berkeley student rebellion. The students were supine. You never know what will light the fire. You have to keep the pressure on. I know only one thing for sure, the whole liberal-progressive constituency is going nowhere.”

This is troublesome given the recent levels of orchestrated violence at town hall meetings. The coming demonstrations will not be you and I, but some brown shirt wannabes. We do live in interesting times, no?

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By oldhip, August 10, 2009 at 1:40 am Link to this comment

I said it before, and I’ll say it again…

“We Deserve What Is Coming…”

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